BOOK 10 MAJESTY'S
(Saturday, October 27th, 2001)
(Out of This World Costume Shop)
Maria dug through the racks of costumes, mentally rejecting one after another. Finally she pulled out an old-fashioned, western saloon-girl costume and held it up for Michael's inspection, "What do you think about this for the Evans' party? I could be the saloon hall girl and you could be the Marshall with chaps and a cowboy hat."
Michael shook his head, "Not into the cowboy thing."
Maria shoved the costume back onto the rack and kept looking. Next she pulled out a Catwoman suit complete with mask and whip. She raised her eyebrows and motioned to the costume, "We could go as Batman and Catwoman."
"No way I'm wearing tights," Michael huffed.
"Fine," Maria said, putting Catwoman back. "Do you know what Max and Liz are wearing?"
"Max wouldn't say," Michael said, with a laugh, "so it must be something embarrassing."
"Wait," Maria said. "Max asked Liz to let him pick the costumes, so why would he be embarrassed?"
Michael shrugged. "Maybe he is going with a caveman theme that would have Liz half naked."
"No way," Maria shook her head. "That's more your style."
Michael started to open his mouth but before he could speak, Maria cut him off, "And before you ask, the answer is no."
Michael shrugged and Maria bit her bottom lip, still thinking. "Okay, I know, we could go as a couple of flower children. Tie-dye and peace symbols, maybe a nehru jacket for you.
Michael narrowed his eyes, "I don't think so."
Maria sighed, "Okay, so what do you want to wear?"
Michael smiled. "Well . . ."
(Wednesday, October 31st, 2001)
(The Evans House)
Song Playing: Only You by The Platters
Max stayed near the front door, his attention sharpening every time the doorbell rang. He would have picked up Liz and brought her to his house but her parents were also invited to the party and she would be coming with them.
Since Max had heard his parents were having a costume party, he had looked forward to it. He had even gone so far as to ask Liz to let him pick out their costumes because he had the perfect thing in mind for her, and he couldn't wait until she arrived so he could see her reaction.
The doorbell rang again and he rushed to answer it. His heart soared when he saw Jeff and Nancy Parker, dressed in the 80s style. Mrs. Parker wore pegged pants and a long frilly shirt with a big belt around her hips. Her hair was teased up, with several colors added and was held in place with an enormous lace bow. Mr. Parker was in ripped jeans and combat boots with a t-shirt that sported the anarchy symbol. He had a studded leather jacked thrown over his shoulder, a plaid shirt tied around his waist and he had even sculpted his hair into a mohawk.
Max smiled and he held out a hand to Mr. Parker, "It's nice to see you Mrs. Parker, Mr. Parker, you look great." He motioned them into the room, "Please come in. There's food and drinks in the dining room, to the left. That's where my parents are," he finished distractedly trying to see Liz behind them.
Jeff smiled at the look on Max's face and took Nancy by the arm, using his best cockney accent, "Come on luv, let's take a gander at the nosh."
Max waited with growing impatience as they moved out of the way, finally revealing Liz to him. His eyes drank in the sight of her, a vision in her costume just as he had anticipated, and for a moment he was incapable of speech.
The costume he had chosen for her was an emerald blue floor-length gown, covered with bead work and embroidery. It was off-the-shoulder, skimming Liz's slender body until it reached her hips, where it flared out gently, held up by a stiff under-skirt. Her hands were encased in short white gloves and her hair had been curled into tight ringlets that were pinned away from her face with decorative combs. And carefully placed on the top of her head, was a sparkling tiara, encrusted with faux gems.
Max took her gloved hand in his, "You're so beautiful, Liz."
Liz smiled, taking in his appearance. Max wore a flowing, black embroidered tunic with a high collar and a dark green kerchief at his neck. A matching green and black, short cape was draped casually over one shoulder, with black gloves and boots completing his outfit. She curtsied, "You're beautiful too, Max. Maybe you should wear a doublet and leggings more often."
She leaned in closer to him, "Is this how you see us? As Cinderella and Prince Charming?"
Max shook his head, "Ever since I first saw you when we were kids, you were like some magical creature to me, a fairy princess, and all I ever wanted to be was your Prince Charming."
Liz kissed him on the cheek. "And you really are, Max."
Song Playing: You Are My Shining Star by the Manhattans
He smiled and suddenly remembered what he had in his pocket. "I have something for you." From his pocket, Max withdrew a rectangular, red velvet box and held it out to her.
Liz took the box and looked up into his face. "What is it?"
"I bought it to give to you that first Christmas after I healed you, but then we weren't together, and last Christmas it didn't seem appropriate either..." he let his words trail off, knowing she didn't need him to fill them in.
"Oh," Liz said simply, as understanding dawned.
"I kept it as a reminder of all you meant to me," Max said as he met her eyes and saw tears gathering there. He reached across and gently brushed her cheek with his thumb. "But now that we're together, I want you to have it."
Liz slowly opened the box and gasped when she saw the shining silver necklace, nestled in the lining. The charms Max had chosen were perfectly symbolic of their love, two hearts bearing their names, on either side of a star.
"It's beautiful, Max. Will you help me put it on?" Liz asked, as she turned her back to him.
Max shed his gloves and took the necklace from her. "When I chose the charms I thought they were perfect for us, two people from different worlds finding love. But now that we know the truth, it seems even more right." He fastened the necklace, placing a kiss on her neck just above the clasp and turned Liz back to face him. "Even though we died, somehow, with the help of fate, or destiny, or the stars themselves, we found each other again."
Michael and Maria walked to the Evans' door and Maria let out a sigh as she pressed the doorbell. "I can't believe I let you talk me into this."
Michael's brow creased, "What are you talking about? That dress looks great on you."
Maria nodded, "Yeah, I look great but what about you?"
"This costume will be the hit of the party," he assured her.
Isabel opened the door and glanced at Michael's blue pained face, leather jerkin and tartan skirt. She lifted one delicate eyebrow, "You'd better be wearing something under that kilt, Michael. We do not need any Braveheart reenactments."
Liz laughed as Max held her hand. "Really Max you have to let go, the call of nature is becoming urgent."
Max kissed her hand playfully. "Okay, but hurry back. I can't stand to be away from you for too long."
"Oh, it's like a medical condition?" she asked, with mock seriousness.
"Definitely," Max said, as he placed a quick kiss on her lips. "If you're away for too long, I start to get withdrawals."
Liz laughed again and kissed him on the cheek. "Okay, I'll hurry. I would hate to think of you sitting here suffering."
She started to walk away but Max held her hand until their arms were stretched out between them, only reluctantly breaking the contact when he was forced to. He watched Liz thread her way around the people and out of the room, only then noticing that just a few feet away Isabel was trying to get his attention.
Max rose from his chair and joined his sister and Hale. He took in Hale's costume with a quick glance. Hale wore a tan jacket and vest with white shirt and pencil-thin slacks. A twenties-style straw hat with a red band that matched his red tie, white gloves, and brown and white oxfords finished his costume, a perfect mate for Isabel's. She wore a red flapper dress with black beading and her hair was pulled up into a matching beaded band, leaving curling tendrils trailing around her face. Matching gloves, a long beaded necklace and a feather boa completed her look.
Isabel hadn't allowed Max to see her costume beforehand and this was the first time he had seen what they were wearing. "F. Scott and Zelda, right?" he asked. "You guys look great."
"Thanks," Hale said, draping an arm around Isabel's shoulder. "And you and Liz are Prince Charming and Cinderella?"
Max smiled. "Something like that."
"It takes a brave man to wear tights," Hale teased with a smile. "But I think you've got the legs to pull them off."
"Thanks," Max said sarcastically, with a crooked grin. "Have you seen Michael's costume? I think I would be more embarrassed to wear what he has on."
Isabel rolled her eyes. "Or the lack of what he has on."
Max quickly changed the subject, "So, how's school going?"
Liz exited the bathroom and headed back to Max, only to meet his parents along the way. "Oh, hi, Mr. and Mrs. Evans," she greeted warmly. "You guys look fantastic."
Philip smiled proudly. He was dressed as Frankenstein's monster, with tattered clothes, green makeup and even fake stitch marks. Diane was dressed as his bride, complete with the huge white-striped hair.
"Thanks, Liz," Philip said. "You look very pretty, too."
Someone motioned to Philip. "Excuse me ladies," he said. "I think there's a problem in the other room."
Diane turned to Liz with a smile, "It's nice to see you and Max back together again Liz. He never talks to his father or me about his life, and I have to admit I've been worried to him. I know he's been going through some tough times and I'm glad he has someone to confide in."
Liz smiled, "Thank you, Mrs. Evans. I can't tell you how much that means to me."
"I've always thought you were good for him," Diane said. "He just seems more confident and more carefree when you are with him."
"I feel the same way about Max," Liz said.
Diane moved closer to Liz. "And I would never tell Philip, but I have to admit I was somewhat relieved when you two got caught making-out last year."
Liz blushed furiously, "I, um…"
Diane cut her off with a laugh. "There's no need to be embarrassed. I just meant I was glad Max was finally letting down his guard, letting someone in."
Liz nodded, understanding.
Diane continued, "I don't know what came between you, and really it's none of my business, but I hope you can work through it. It's not like I expect you to get married or anything, you are both still young, but it's nice to have someone especially your senior year." She put a hand on Liz's shoulder. "I just wanted to say that I'm glad you're back in Max's life."
Liz smiled, "I'm glad too."
Hale continued, "So Isabel and I have decided to take the next Sociology class from the same teacher. We really like working together and Dave's teaching style…"
Hale's voice faded into the background as Max's attention was drawn to the doorway across the room where Liz had just entered. She stopped just within the room and looked around, her eyes finding Max immediately.
For Max, time seemed to slow as a smiling Liz glided toward him in her beautiful dress. Somehow the scene seemed familiar to him but he knew it had never taken place before. Perhaps it was just the fact that it was a fantasy come true that made it feel so familiar.
Suddenly Max saw himself in a large room, surrounded by rich furnishings and dancing couples. Michael was at his side and they stood waiting to be introduced to a long line of people. A flash of blue caught his attention and he turned to see Liz entering the room.
But Max knew instantly that it wasn't Liz he was seeing, it was her past self, Ava.
With a smile, Max came out of the vision and rushed across to Liz, taking her head in his hands. "Liz," he whispered as tears started to gather in his eyes, "I remember. I remember you."
"And it would be really great…" Hale trailed off as Max walked away. Hale turned to Isabel, "Was it something I said?"
Isabel watched Max go to Liz. "Don't take it personally. Max doesn't even realize he does it. Sometimes I think Max considers the whole world as just a minor annoyance that distracts him from Liz." She shrugged as she turned back to Hale with a smile and slipped an arm through his, "Let's go dance."
Song Playing: Bliss by Muse
Max led Liz into his room and closed the door behind them. He turned to her with a huge smile and pulled her into a fierce hug, "I remember you."
Liz hugged him back tightly as tears flooded her eyes and spilled down her cheeks.
"I was so worried," Max said. "I thought Tess had done something to me to block you from my memory."
Liz shook her head, "You never said anything."
Max loosened his hold and pulled back slightly so he could look into her eyes. Seeing her tears, he reached up and gently wiped them from her cheeks, "I didn't want to worry you."
"I want to see what you saw," Liz said with a smile. "Will you show me what you remember?"
"Of course," Max said. "I've never wanted to share anything with you more."
He took her hands in his and pulled her to his bed where they sat down facing one another, knees touching. Max cupped Liz's face in his hands and pressed his forehead against hers, closing his eyes as Liz's arms wrapped around his neck. The connection slid easily into place as soon as Max willed it and a rush of images and Liz's emotions spilled over him.
He spoke to her through the link, Ready, Liz?
Yes, she answered.
He sharpened the connection and focused on the memory, sharing the image with Liz.
It took Liz a moment to realize what she was seeing, until she remembered she was looking through Max's eyes. She looked around the ornate room and a feeling of familiarity washed over her. Where is this, Max? It seems like I should know it.
I don't know, Max admitted.
Liz glanced at the people in line to greet Max and noticed they had no faces. No one ever did in Max's memories, he just didn't remember what they looked like.
The Max in the memory turned, and Liz realized Michael was standing beside him. Michael was the only one in the room with a face, but it was how he appeared on Earth. Max still didn't remember how he used to look.
Then a sudden flash of blue caught Max's attention and his gaze followed the movement. Liz saw a girl in a dark blue gown enter the room and she realized that the girl had her face. Then she felt the rush of emotions Max had experienced when he first saw her. He was nervous, excited and he knew that he had never seen anyone so beautiful.
Max, Liz gasped, her gown is almost identical to the one I'm wearing.
I realized that when I had the flash, Max said. I chose that dress for you because I used to have dreams where you were wearing it. I thought they were just fantasies but they must have been memories.
Liz watched through Max's eyes as the other Liz joined a woman in the line being presented to him. He waited anxiously for her to reach him, growing more and more impatient until finally she was before him. And when her eyes met his, he knew without doubt that he was in love.
Liz was overwhelmed by the strength of Max's feelings. You fell in love with me at first sight.
I'm not surprised, Max said. The same thing happened when I first saw you on the playground when we were nine.
You never told me that, Liz said softly.
I didn't want to scare you, Max replied.
You wouldn't have, Liz said. I've had a crush on you for years but I never thought I had a chance. You were always so smart and handsome and mysterious. You seemed so sophisticated so untouchable and I didn't think you would be interested in a small town girl like me. But when you healed me, it was like you woke up something inside me and finally it was okay for me to love you.
Max's forehead was still pressed to Liz's and he felt tears on his cheeks. He wasn't sure if they were his or Liz's, but it didn't really matter because for once they were tears of joy.
We've wasted so much time, Max said, but we're together now and we'll never let anything separate us again. He lightly stroked her soft cheeks with his thumbs. I can't even tell you how much I love you, Liz.
I can feel your love for me, surrounding me, Max, and I love you just as much.
They were so engrossed in one another that neither heard the door open or saw Max's mother look in.
Diane paused briefly when she saw her son with Liz and then quietly stepped back and closed the door.
Diane sat on the edge of the bed as Philip bustled around, taking off his costume. "Did you see Max and Liz together tonight?" she asked.
Philip thought for a moment, "Yeah, their costumes were really cute together."
"Did anything seem unusual about them?"
Philip shook his head, "No. What was unusual?"
"After we talked to Liz, I noticed she and Max went upstairs together. I went looking for them after a few minutes because I thought they might be making out or something in Max's room. But when I got there, they were sitting together on his bed."
Philip nodded, "They were making out on his bed."
"No," Diane said. "They were sitting, facing each other with their foreheads pressed together. Max had Liz's head in his hands and her arms were wrapped around his neck." She shook her head, "It was strange. They were just sitting there with their eyes closed. They weren't speaking at all but they seemed to be perfectly happy together. It was almost spiritual."
Philip's brow creased, "What did they say when you asked them?"
Diane shook her head, "They never knew I was there, I didn't say anything to them. It felt like I was interrupting something special."
"Do you want me to talk to Max about it?" Philip asked.
Diane thought for a moment and then shook her head, "No, I don't think so. I was just telling Liz that I was glad she was back in Max's life and how good I thought she was for him. Haven't you noticed Max has come out of his shell again?"
"Yeah," Philip nodded. "He's been downright chipper lately."
Diane smiled, "Yeah and I don't want to do anything to wreck that."
(Friday, November 16th, 2001)
Isabel reached across the table and took Hale's hand in hers. "It's going to be really weird next week. Since it's Thanksgiving vacation, we won't see each other every day."
Hale smiled, "Who says we won't? Just because there's no school doesn't mean we can't get together."
Isabel nodded, "Yeah, you're right. I guess we could start early on our final paper."
Hale shook his head, "I had some other things in mind, like maybe a matinee of that movie you've been dying to see, or a picnic in the park, or we could drive into Albuquerque and spend the day. Or we could get some videos and take-out Chinese and just spend the day at my house."
"All of those sound great," Isabel said. "You take me to all kinds of great places, restaurants and movies and picnics. You're too good to me."
Hale squeezed her hand, "Nothing is too good for you, Isabel. I love spending time with you, anywhere, any time. I haven't been out, enjoying myself, in what seems like years. With you, I feel I'm learning to live again."
Isabel nodded, knowing he was talking about his father's death, and then a sudden thought struck her. "Hale, where are you spending Thanksgiving?"
Hale shrugged, "I hadn't even thought about it."
Isabel smiled, "Well now you don't have to, because you're spending it with my family."
(Saturday, November 17th, 2001)
(The Valenti House)
Jim waited impatiently for Kyle to return from practice, and when he finally walked into the house, Jim called out to him from the sofa. "Hey Kyle, come over for a few minutes. I want to talk to you."
Kyle sank down next to his Dad. "What's going on?"
"Well," Jim started, "I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. I've got my job back and I'm certainly not getting any younger…"
Kyle cut him off, "Wait a minute. You're not having some kind of mid-life crisis or something, are you? And you want to tell me that you bought a new sports car and eloped this morning with a girl named Bambi, who is five years older than me."
"No, not quite," Jim laughed. "But I have been spending a lot of time with a pretty wonderful girl named Amy, and I was kind of thinking it might be nice to make things more permanent between us. I wasn't really sure what you would think about it though..."
Kyle cut him off again, "Dad, I think it's great you want to propose to Amy."
Jim smiled, "I'm glad you approve, but if she agrees, it will mean some changes in all of our lives. Amy and Maria and maybe Sean would be moving in with us. We'd have to build on a new room or two, maybe a new bathroom too. Or maybe we should just get a bigger place. And we'd have to help clean up the place more. You know how women are about everything being clean."
Jim continued, "And we'd have to be more careful about what we say and do concerning the alien thing, since Amy doesn't know the truth."
"Wait a minute," Kyle said. "You're going to marry Amy but not tell her the truth. Doesn't she deserve to know?"
"It's not my place to tell her."
"But if you asked Max…"
Jim shook his head. "I can't ask Max to put himself or the others in danger by revealing their secret."
"Why not?" Kyle said. "Amy wouldn't tell anyone."
"I don't think she would. But I still can't ask Max." Jim sighed, "I promised Max he could trust me and I would keep their secret. I can't go back on that. Besides, Max's own parents don't even know. How could I ask him to tell Amy?"
Kyle nodded, finally understanding, "Okay, you're right. So when are you going to pop the question?"
"Amy has invited us over for Thanksgiving and I thought I would do it that night."
"And the ring," Kyle asked.
Jim smiled. "I'm going shopping right after lunch."
(Tuesday, November 20th, 2001)
Michael hit the bell with his spatula. "Order up, Liz."
Liz grabbed the plates and turned to slide them onto the counter where Isabel, Sean, Maria and Max were sitting. "Two burgers and a Greek God Salad. Maria you're sure you don't want anything? We'll be closing the kitchen soon."
Maria shook her head, "I'll just stick with my shake."
Liz nodded and leaned forward over the counter toward Max. "Do you have everything you need with your burger?"
"Almost," Max said, and he leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss.
Isabel rolled her eyes.
The phone in the back rang and Michael went to answer it.
Sean leaned into Maria, "Are they always like this?"
Maria nodded, "Get used to it."
Michael thrust the phone through the door, shaking it. "Liz, the phone's for you."
Liz smiled at Max, "Be back in a minute to check on you."
Max followed her with his eyes until the door shut behind her and then he turned to Isabel. "So where's Hale tonight?"
"He has a paper due in another class."
Max nodded, "He's a pretty nice guy. I like him."
"Thanks, Max," Isabel said with a smile. "Although after the way you took off in the middle of your conversation with him the night of the party, Hale probably thinks you're crazy."
Max smiled, "I'll apologize when I see him again. It's just that flash caught me off guard and I wanted to share it with Liz."
"I know," Isabel said, "you already explained to me and I understand. You've been anxious about remembering Liz, but I couldn't exactly tell Hale that."
"What did you tell him?" Max asked, curious.
Isabel smiled, "I told him you were so in love that you couldn't think straight."
Max grimaced, "Thanks."
Liz emerged into the dining room, looking like she had seen a ghost.
"Liz, what's wrong?" Max called out as he hopped off the stool, going to her.
Michael heard Max's alarm and rushed into the dining room. "What happened?" He looked around for any signs of danger but when he didn't see anything, he turned back to Liz. "Who was that on the phone?"
"It was Don," Liz said softly, looking around the group. "The translation is finished."
Everyone was shocked into silence.
Sean was the first to speak, "What translation?"
Maria spoke softly, "Remember, I told you about the book in the alien language."
Liz continued, "Don e-mailed the translation to me and he‘s sending the complete printout in the mail, just in case."
"So what are we waiting for?" Michael asked. "Let's go get it."
Max followed Liz upstairs and into her room as the others waited below in the Crashdown. Silently Liz took a seat at her computer and Max sat on the bed behind her. Max placed his hand on her shoulder as they waited for the computer to start and then for the connection to the internet.
"I can't believe we're finally going to get to read the book," Max said softly. "For months I've been afraid of it, dreaded what it might say. It's so alien, ominous even, and it has always seemed so irrefutable. Tess and Nasedo were always using it to tell us what we should be doing, how we should act. But no one had ever even read it."
Liz nodded, "I know. I've felt that way too, even before we found out who I was." She opened her e-mail and pressed the print button and then turned to Max and took his hand. "But now we'll all know the truth."
Michael skimmed over the first page of the translation, reading aloud, "You are the royal four. Blah, blah. You were created from the genetic materials of your alien predecessors and human subjects, blah, blah, blah. This first part's the same."
He continued down the page, and then suddenly stopped. "Some of this stuff at the top is changed around a bit, but it's basically the same. But remember where it started with all of that abduction scenario crap in the one we found? Well, this one is completely different."
"What does it say?" Max asked.
Michael looked up from the paper and held it out to Max. "It was written by you, your other self, so maybe you should read it."
Max took the paper and started reading aloud, "You are the Royal four. Zan the King, Ava his Queen, Vilondra his sister, Rath his Counselor. You were created from the genetic material of your alien predecessors and human subjects. You were given human form so that you could live safely on this planet undetected, until the time comes for your return."
"I, King Zantor Tageonant, write this in hopes it will never be used, but with the escalating hostilities, coupled with Ava's predictions, that now seems impossible. But working together, we, your predecessors, have devised a plan that will give us a second chance to defeat our enemies."
"This book is not meant to be a comprehensive instruction manual but simply a brief outline, a starting place in case anything goes wrong. You have been sent to Earth with four, loyal, shape shifters, who will protect you from danger and keep you hidden, and a powerful machine called the Granolith."
"The source of its power is unknown but practically limitless and its uses are many. However the Granolith was not meant to be used as a weapon and should never be corrupted in that way. It is easily converted to different tasks, including being used as an additional power boost for the transport. Even when not used with a ship, the Granolith is capable of transporting the entire party back to Antar in about an hour."
"To control the Granolith, simply create a six-sided, six inch crystal, using a silicone-based material, and direct the intended actions into it with your powers. Insert the crystal into the Granolith's base and the action will be carried-out immediately. For example, one could specify a departure time and destination for the return to Antar."
"A control crystal is not always required for the Granolith. Ava and I are both capable of contacting and directing the Granolith through our connection. We have turned to the Granolith in times of difficulty. It can help focus powers and make minds clear."
"The Granolith is very special and should be carefully protected. The chamber containing your hibernation pods and the Granolith has been hidden away from human settlement. It can only be accessed by the four of you and your protectors."
"You have also been given communications technology which will allow you to access information from your true home. Three orbs with the symbol of Antar were sent to Earth with you. Be wary of using the orbs to send messages because the signal is easily tracked and could lead our enemies to you. Retrieving messages sent from Antar can be safely done by simply focusing your energy into one of the orbs."
"Your hybrid bodies will have capabilities of both humans and Antarians but the limitations and benefits are largely unknown. Procreation is possible between the pairs, but the exact length of the pregnancy term is unknown. Based on the Antarian pregnancy term of sixteen months and the human term of nine months, the scientists have estimated that a hybrid pregnancy term will be twelve months…"
"Twelve months!" Isabel exclaimed. "That little, lying tramp"
"What's wrong?" asked Sean.
Liz spoke up, "Tess told them she had to get back home because the baby was sick and the pregnancy would only last a month."
Michael quickly did the math. "Tess has only been pregnant for six months.
Max remained silent and Liz squeezed his hand. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Max said. "I just… It's just a shock." He shrugged, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised after all of her other lies but I thought she was telling the truth about the term of the baby. In the pod chamber, the baby was moving and pressed his hand…" Max shook his head. "I thought I was connecting with him, that I felt a response, but obviously it was a lie too. He wasn't old enough yet."
"That doesn't mean you didn't connect with him on some level," Liz argued. "He might not have understood but I'm sure you got through to him."
Max smiled at her, "Thanks, Liz." He looked at the anxious faces of the others and then turned back to the paper. "There's just a little left here."
He continued reading, "Offspring will appear human but will have powers. Unlike you, they will have powers from birth, so be careful to keep them hidden from humans until they are able to control themselves."
"Study and learn all you can about the history of Antar and Earth, focusing on warfare, politics and law. Use the memory retrieval devices to regain the experiences of your other life. Develop your powers and special abilities to gain precise control, because they weaken and become unreliable with disuse. But do not even consider returning home until you reach your mid to late twenties. The scientists estimate that you won't gain the full extent of your powers until then."
"In closing, I offer one final warning. Do not trust our enemy Khivar or any of his underlings or followers. Do not believe any truce or treaty he may offer because he is treacherous and false in all of his dealings."
"The task before you may seem overwhelming but the fate of your friends, family, and subjects on five worlds are depending on you. Trust in your hearts and instincts and you will prevail."
Michael shook his head, "I can't believe how much is different. I thought Tess just changed a word or two here and there, but there was a lot she didn't want us to know."
"Like about the baby," Isabel said, "and the fact that the Granolith isn't just a one-use, disposable transport."
"Tess must have made that crystal we found," Maria said. "But why did she tell you the Granolith took twenty-four hours to warm up? She should have just said it was leaving right then and you wouldn't have had time to change your minds."
Michael shook his head, "She must have needed the extra time for something. Maybe to warn Khivar we would be arriving on Antar the next day."
"And what happened to the memory retrieval devices?" Isabel asked. Do you think they were lost in the crash? Nasedo never mentioned them."
"Nasedo never mentioned a lot of things," Michael said sarcastically. He turned to Max and noted the tight look to his face. "What do you think, Max?"
Max shook his head, "I think I screwed up big time sending Tess home in the Granolith."
"We didn't know that then," Isabel argued. "And besides, you didn't have a choice. The baby was sick."
"Was he?" Max asked. "Everything else was a lie, maybe the baby's illness was too. I connected with him, I could feel him having trouble breathing but maybe that was all a mind warp too."
"Maybe it wasn't, Max," Liz said.
Max continued, "It was just so convenient finding the translation and the crystal right when we needed it. We should have suspected something was wrong. I should have suspected..." he trailed off. "If we had known all of this back then, I could have stopped Tess from leaving with my son."
Liz shook her head, "You did the only thing you could, Max. You couldn't take the chance with your son's life."
Max nodded and wrapped his arms around her and placed a soft kiss on her head. With one arm resting on Liz's shoulders he turned back to the others. "There are a couple of other things we learned from the translation," he pointed out. "We will continue to get more powerful. So it's more important than ever that we all keep practicing to gain control of our powers."
Everyone nodded and Max continued, "And I think it's obvious that when Tess read this translation, she must have known she wasn't Ava."
Michael shook his head, "How do you figure that?"
"Because," Liz spoke up, "Zan wrote about Ava's predictions."
Max nodded, "And Tess doesn't have that power."
"That's right," Isabel said. "With everything else, I forgot that part."
Michael shrugged, "And what does that mean?"
Kyle spoke up, "It's just like I've been telling you. Liz can predict the future."
Michael rolled his eyes, "Okay, we get that, but what does it mean about Tess?"
"Well," Isabel said, "it's proof that, at least in the end, Tess knew exactly who she was, or wasn't." She shrugged, "Although with everything else we've learned, I'm really not surprised."
Sean spoke up, "And what was the part about Zan and Ava being able to connect with the Granolith. I thought it was a machine. So can you connect with cars and VCRs and other things?"
"I've never tried but I don't think so," Max said. "The translation did say the Granolith was a machine but it must be a special kind of machine for us to connect with it."
"It also said to turn to the Granolith in times of trouble," Isabel reminded him. "I wonder what that meant?"
Max shrugged, "If the Granolith was here we could do some experiments, but without it anything we come up with would just be a theory."
"Well," Michael said, "all of this is interesting but none of it is really useful or relevant to our current situation."
"Maybe not," Max admitted. "But it's another piece to the puzzle and if we ever get the Granolith back we'll know what to do with it this time."
Michael nodded, "It's just that we waited all of this time for the translation and, I don't know, I just thought we would get some answers or something. I mean, Tess thought it was important enough to kill for."
Max nodded, understanding. "I had hoped the same thing, that some huge secret would be revealed, but it never really works like that in real life. I think it's easy enough to see why Tess changed so much of the text, but you're right Michael, none of it was worth Alex's life. Nothing could have been."
(Thursday, November 22nd, 2001)
Hale and Isabel walked slowly, hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder, along the path in the park.
Isabel loved the fact that she and Hale were so comfortable around one another. They could simply be together and there was no need for conversation. Isabel had never felt closer to anyone in her life.
Thanksgiving had been great with Hale spending the day. Isabel's parents had liked Hale when they first met him and were always glad to see him.
They had played games and watched a movie. Then the guys had watched football while Isabel and her Mom put the finishing touches on dinner. Hale had offered to help but he really didn't know anything about cooking and Isabel's mother had diplomatically sent him back into the living room.
During dinner there had been lively conversation and jokes. Isabel and Hale had held hands under the table and after the dishes had been done, Hale suggested a walk in the nearby park.
Suddenly Hale stopped and turned to her with a smile, "Dance with me?"
Isabel laughed, "There's no music."
Hale stepped closer and slid a hand around her waist, "You're so beautiful, I always hear music when I'm with you."
Isabel closed the distance between them, pressing her lips to his.Hale swept her into his arms, taking charge and deepening the kiss.
After a few minutes Hale broke the kiss and pulled back to look into her face. "I love you, Isabel."
Isabel was surprised for a moment, but then a joyous smile lit her face. "I love you too."
(The DeLuca House)
Maria, Sean and Kyle waited impatiently for Amy and Jim to get back from their after-dinner drive. Kyle had filled Maria and Sean in on his father's plans and Maria was especially excited.
"I can't stand not knowing," she said, pacing around the room. "If we really hurried with the plans, we might be able to set up a Christmas wedding. Wouldn't that be romantic?"
Sean and Kyle looked at one another with amusement.
"Yeah, real romantic," Sean grunted.
"Can you just imagine it?" Maria continued, oblivious. "The snow and the tinsel. Mom could wear a green dress, with her hair up. I can't wait to tell Liz."
"Don't brides usually wear white?" Kyle asked.
"Not for a second wedding," she said dismissively. "But there's no way all of us are going to fit in your house," Maria suddenly changed the subject. "And no way we'll fit in our house. So do you think they'll buy a new one?"
"Dad mentioned that," Kyle said, "or building on to our house."
"And we need a place for Sean too, if the Sheriff doesn't mind a criminal in his house," Maria said sarcastically.
"Very funny, Maria," Sean huffed, "but we don't even know what aunt Amy's answer will be."
A flash of headlights and the sound of a car in the driveway drew all of their attention.
Maria looked at the guys, "Should we be excited or just pretend we don't know until they tell us?"
Sean pulled Maria down on the sofa and used the remote to turn on the TV. "Just sit here and act like we're watching TV and we'll find out soon enough."
"Okay," Maria nodded, taking deep breaths to calm down.
The front door opened and Amy and Jim walked in hand-in-hand, smiling.
Maria caught sight of the sparkling diamond on her mother's hand and jumped up with a squeal, "Oh Mom, I'm so happy for you."
Isabel knelt in front of Alex's headstone and pulled her jacket more tightly around her shoulders. With a gloved hand, she carefully traced the letters of his name.
Tears gathered in her eyes but she forced a smile. "I just came to tell you that I'm in love with Hale and he loves me."
She gasped as a sob tried to escape and she clapped a hand to her mouth. Isabel took a deep breath to push the tears away.
"And, you were right, Alex," she whispered. "Oh Alex, I'm so sorry but you were right, and I came to..." she trailed off as another sob threatened. "This is so hard, but I don't think I need you any more. I think I'm ready to move on with Hale and I just wanted to tell you and say goodbye."
(Saturday, December 1st, 2001)
Max and Isabel worked with Liz on her memory recovery on the sofa, while Michael and Maria sat with Kyle at the counter, as he attempted using his powers again.
Kyle focused on the rock sitting on the counter and concentrated all of his energy into changing the color, but after a few minutes he broke off, exhausted. "Nothing. I just don't feel anything."
"Come on Kyle," Michael prompted. "We know you'll be getting powers and you've got to learn to control them. Try again."
"It's not that easy," Kyle said. "I don't even know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. I know all of you keep telling me it will just happen, but trying to figure it out is frustrating."
He shook his hand toward Michael, "I mean what am I supposed to do, just say abracadabra and…"
Kyle broke off as he felt a surge of power run down his arm and Michael's black t-shirt swirled into a bright, neon green. Kyle and Michael both jumped, and Michael nearly fell off his stool.
The commotion drew the attention of Max, Liz and Isabel and all together they asked, "What's wrong?"
Kyle pointed to Michael's shirt. "Did you do that?"
"No way," Michael snorted. "I wouldn't be caught dead in this color."
Maria jumped off the stool and hugged Kyle, "You did it. You changed the color of his shirt."
"I did?" Kyle asked.
"Yeah, congratulations," Michael said sarcastically. "Now would you do me a favor and change it back?"
(Tuesday, December 18th, 2001)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
Lonni sat nearby as the skin soldiers finished their daily training and when Nicholas dismissed them, she followed him into the Crawford house.
Sporting a new skin identical to her first, Ida intercepted Lonni in the front hall. "You always just walk into someone else's house without knocking? It isn't very polite."
"Back off Grandma," Lonni warned her. "You wouldn't want me to have to test the strength of that brand new skin, now would you?"
Ida stood her ground but called out, "Sir!"
Nicholas came out of the kitchen with a half-eaten sandwich. "What Mom? I'm eating."
"Lonni insisted on speaking with you, Sir," Ida said.
Nicholas looked at Ida and then past her to Lonni. "Is there a problem ladies?"
"I need to talk to you Nicholas," Lonni said. "Now."
"I'm eating lunch," Nicholas said dismissively.
Lonni's temper rose and she struggled to keep calm. "Please, Nicholas," she said, with a forced smile.
Nicholas motioned to the door, "Wait outside. I'll be with you in a minute."
Lonni hesitated, her anger growing at being dismissed, but finally raised her chin proudly and went out.
Nicholas waited until Lonni had closed the door before he turned to Ida. "What happened?"
"She threatened to kill me if I didn't get out of her way." Ida sighed, "Sir, you shouldn't trust her."
Nicholas smiled, "Don't worry, we won't have to put up with her for much longer. Just try to stay out of her way."
He downed the last of his sandwich and joined Lonni on the front porch. "What can I do for you today?"
Lonni let some of her anger and frustration show, "Nicholas, we have been waiting here for months. We delivered the Granolith according to our bargain, so when are we going home?"
"I told you we are waiting for Khivar's orders," Nicholas explained.
"Khivar has sent these troops and they are training but you haven't told us the plan," Lonni reminded him. "How are we supposed to help you so we can leave?"
"You know what you need to know, for now. When the time comes, I will tell you more," Nicholas assured her. "As for your use of the word we, I would hope that you know nothing has changed since New York. The deal was, you deliver the Granolith and you get passage home, for one. There is no way I'm going to allow Rath to return to Antar."
Lonni nodded, "I know that but Rath doesn't, and as long as we don't tell him, he will remain loyal to us." She leaned closer to Nicholas and combed her fingers through his bangs, moving them off of his forehead. "See Rath isn't too bright. He'll do whatever I tell him to do, no questions asked."
"Maybe," Nicholas agreed, "but you should be careful not to put me in the same category. Don't make the mistake of thinking you have me wrapped around your little finger too."
"I could never think that about you, Nicholas," Lonni purred. "Rath is a moron, but you are one of the greatest Generals Antar has ever seen."
Nicholas smiled, "You remember that, do you?"
"A little," Lonni admitted. "But I do remember every woman on the planet was in love with you," she said. "Power, wealth, stunning good looks, and you are the right hand of Khivar and the second most powerful man on Antar. What woman wouldn't want to be with you?"
Around the corner of the house, Rath listened unemotionally as Lonni sold him out. He wasn't even surprised, he knew her too well. And now that she had made her deal, he had to make the best deal for himself.
Jim gave Amy a quick kiss as he slid into the chair across from her. "I just stopped by the house to check up on the workmen. They are making good progress on the rooms."
Amy smiled, "That's great. I hope they're done before the wedding. I don't know how much I like the idea of Sean and Maria staying at my place alone until the new rooms are finished."
"If that happens, it will be all right," Jim assured her. "They are both responsible kids. I'm sure they can handle being alone for a few days."
"I'm kind of surprised to hear you say that, Jim. Especially after the trouble Sean has been in."
Jim shrugged, "Everyone deserves a second chance and I know Sean is trying to turn his life around." He reached across the table, "It will all work out, you'll see. We'll get the rooms finished and you're house sold, and live together like one big happy family."
(Wednesday, December 19th, 2001)
(The Parker House – Liz's Room)
Liz awoke suddenly, the dream still fresh in her mind, sending waves of excitement through her. She glanced a the clock, noting it was just before six but she discounted the time and closed her eyes and projected her consciousness to Max's room.
He was still in bed, soundly sleeping but Liz called out to him softly, "Max, wake up." She solidified herself and touched his face, placing a soft kiss on his lips and immediately he kissed her back.
"Mmmmm," he murmured in his sleep, "Liz."
Giggling, she knelt beside the bed, shaking him, "Max."
This time he came awake, opening his eyes with a smile. "You really are here. I thought I was dreaming." He reached for her and pulled her into the bed with him, rolling her over the top, so she landed next to him.
Liz laughed again. "Max, I have to tell you something."
Max kissed her again. "What do you need to tell me?" he asked sleepily.
"I had a dream last night."
Max smiled and raised an eyebrow, "What kind of dream?"
Liz rolled her eyes. "Okay, not a dream exactly, more like a vision. Like the one I had about the accident."
Max raised up on his elbow, suddenly awake. "What did you see?"
"I was on my balcony, sitting on the lounger, looking up at the stars. At first it was normal but then the stars started to get brighter and bigger and turn different colors, twinkling in the sky like Christmas lights. Comets rushed past, leaving trails of dust swirling across the sky. It was absolutely beautiful. I got up and danced, twirling around with my arms raised above my head, trying to reach the stars. Then all of the stars started to twirl with me, going faster and faster until I couldn't catch my breath and I had to stop. I fell back into the lounger and the stars stopped too. They all gathered together in one place in the sky and made one big light, brighter than the sun."
Max shook his head, "But what does it mean?"
"I don't know," Liz admitted.
"And do you feel sick?"
Liz shook her head, "Not at all. I feel great, expectant, like something wonderful is going to happen."